‘Nature’s Eternal Dance’ exhibit at the MTRP Visitor’s Center features Joan Hansen’s art

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The landscape of Mission Trails Park is never the same from moment to moment. Last Saturday, fat, puffy clouds skittered across the sky, deepening the color of the peaks and valleys in the park. Shadows moved across the trees and over the boulders. It was the kind of scene that Joan Hansen loved to paint.

The landscape of Mission Trails Park is never the same from moment to moment. Last Saturday, fat, puffy clouds skittered across the sky, deepening the color of the peaks and valleys in the park. Shadows moved across the trees and over the boulders. It was the kind of scene that Joan Hansen loved to paint.

Hansen is the featured artist for this month at a one-woman show at the MTRP Gallery. In her work, she captures the way that light and shadow interplay with each other. Known for her wildlife, botanical and landscape themes in watercolor, acrylics and oil, Hansen titled her own show at the Visitor’s Center “Nature’s Eternal Dance.”

“I’m intrigued with the dance of light and shadow, which are always changing. You can’t have one without the other,” she said. 

A painting of Climber’s Rock within Mission Trails Park perfectly illustrates the interchange of color and light. Using both a brush and a palette knife, Hansen has seemingly sculpted rocks and boulders of the famous peak by depicting the qualities of shadow and light.

“There are a couple of climbers in the painting,” she said. “But you have to really look to find them. I did that intentionally, so that you look at the texture and color first in the painting.”

Hansen enjoys the ever-changing light and color at Mission Trails Park. “It’s a fabulous place. “If you walk the trails, you’ll see the beauty of nature,” she said.

One of her favorite trails at the park starts just beyond the Visitors’ Center. “The play of light on the stone and bridge is wonderful. I take photographs first and then use them as my study for the paintings,” she said.

But Hansen does not take photographs by rote. In fact, she has a passion for photography as an art form, often taking many photographs of the scene she is studying.

“I usually don’t use just one photo to work from when I make a painting,” she said. “I’ll use several and then glean from the feeling that the photos evoke. That’s what I want to make a painting of.”

The intricacy of patterns also dominates Hansen’s work. The watercolor of a zebra surrounded by large orange hibiscus-type flowers is a good example.

“That was a hard painting to do,” she said of the painting, which she named “Celebrate the Patterns.”

Watercolor is more difficult to do, Hansen explained, because it is more challenging to paint precise shapes and forms. 

“Most of nature is freeform, which I enjoy working from,” Hansen said, pointing to her large painting of the La Jolla Bluffs.

Hansen’s painting entitled “Serenity” shows the way dark dances with light in shadows on a sidewalk.

“This is the sidewalk that leads into the San Diego Zoo. I was fascinated with the shadows,” she said.

Color is another quality that marks Hansen’s paintings from other artists. “I’m known as a colorist,” she said. 

A good example of the intense color work Hansen does is one of her own favorites of the Hawaiian island of Lanai. The blues and greens of the land and sky flow together bringing the eye up and back down again towards the lush landscape of Lanai.

“That’s one of my favorites, too,” said Sylvia Larson, Hansen’s mother.

Larson has had the privilege of sitting alongside Hansen while she works. 

“She has really developed her talent,” Larson said.

Though Hansen does attribute some of her success to a formal Associate’s degree in Art from the University of Wisconsin near where she grew up, she said that most of her best training came from other artists.

“I really learned from the masters. I gleaned from each one something from their own style. Then I was able to create my own style,” she said. 

Though Hansen does work primarily from real-life scenes of nature, she also paints from her own imagination. For example, one painting called “Into the Light” shows rays of light streaming into a magical forest. 

“Nature’s Eternal Dance” exhibit at the MTRP Visitor’s Center will be up through Febr. 27. The Visitor’s Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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